Ornate wallpapers. Measured table settings. Wood features from floor to ceiling. An era when children were raised by nannies, men wore tails to dinner and ladies didn’t dare operate anything trickier than a book.
There are many things to love about that era in Britian, the 1910’s to the 1930’s…the stunning dresses, the introduction of jazz music, the elaborate decor. But also many to abhor…the attitude towards women, the ranking of human beings, the disinterest in children until a certain age, the fact that an unmarried woman is considered a failure to the family, that marrying relatives is commonplace.
Watching Downton Abbey has been a lesson in history. The invention of the telephone, the refrigerator, record players, electric mixers. How in awe these people were with each new toy, resistant to the change or otherwise. We could all take a lesson from that. We demand the release of the newest smart phone and then feel blase about the fact that it doesn’t do enough. We have lost the ability to be truly wowed.
If you have written Downton Abbey off as another British soap opera I am here to say, think again. This is no Coronation Street-style show filled with such heavy accents that I find myself having to translate English to english for my husband, where so-and-so slept with so-and-so, and this one smacked that one and oh look, she’s pregnant.
Yes it is.
But it is drama on another scale. It is elegance and storytelling with amazing backdrops and plot lines. You can leave a show like Coro and come back two years later and still know what is going on. I dare say that would not be possible with a show like Downton.
And what a show from the 1910’s does as well as any other modern show, perhaps even better, is approach issues with a degree of class and indicate to us how little we have grown as a human race.
The three most recent topics broached on Downton:
Part of me was surprised each was brought up as a story line, I’m not sure why. Perhaps they just seemed too modern, too controversial. And the other part of me was incredibly depressed that it was still a concern today. Slap some modern clothes on these folks and it could easily be 2016 with all that they were experiencing and sharing.
That in the span of 100 years we have gone from telephones only just being introduced to family homes to a phone that can change the temperature in your house from 1000 miles away. We have gone from oil fueled lanterns to lights that know how to turn on and off simply by whether or not someone is in the room. We have gone from women only being allowed to sit there, look pretty and get married, to women running countries and doing whatever they hell want.
The Ghomeshi Trials.
1916. 2016. If watching Downton Abbey has taught me anything, it is that we can do better.
And that your plate should sit one inch from the edge of the table when positioning settings for a dinner.